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Validating cultural knowledge

Filed under: Productive partnerships | Identity Language and Culture | Effective leaders

Tags: Te Mana Kōrero




Schools who want to develop a more inclusive curriculum and cultural context are increasingly looking to the community for expertise. At Rotorua Lakes High School, Victoria Walker is working with Whaea Audrey to help deliver her writing programme.

Whaea Audrey deliberately halts the story before its conclusion. Teacher Victoria Walker then instructs the students to generate their own endings.

John Ellis – Principal Rotorua Lakes High School

I hope that we are able to develop that a lot more in the future, in using that resource that exists out there, and the knowledge that many of our older Māori people have. To be able to get the approval of the community for her to be able to use that story inside the classroom, in an appropriate fashion, and make sure that it was culturally safe for both the students, and the teacher, and the person from the community putting the story there in front of them.


Other schools are also using their students’ prior knowledge in the local community in the context of curriculum delivery. At Greymouth High School, a uniquely local context was a source of inspiration for the delivery of the arts curriculum within the school production.

Arthur Graves – Greymouth High School

It was a totally bicultural initiative. The dance teacher was involved, the Māori teacher was involved, the drama teacher was involved and we used a local Māori legend from Kawhio [actually Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere], the legend of the two glaciers.

Erin Einder – Teacher Greymouth High School

The story, when you actually get really involved with it, is about a young woman whose love has died and she sheds a valley of tears - the glaciers are a representation of her tears.


As part of their preparation for the performance, Kathleen made sure the students understood the cultural significance of the story.

Kathleen Scott – Teacher Greymouth High School

It’s not really telling our story, just some words on an interpretation panel, it’s not telling our story if they just see some acting. It’s not telling our story until the wairua goes with it.

Dian DuPers – Teacher Greymouth High School

I knew the story was special and it belonged to the West Coast. We had been allowed to take something very very special, so we have this responsibility. It wasn't just about entertainment – it was about respecting something. Because if you didn't, you were going to let everyone down.


Well I think we all knew the basics of the story, but we didn't realise the significance of being able to tell that story. So it just increased the depth and the understanding of why we were doing it, and just how important that was.

Taking this particular story was pretty close to me, because I’m from South Westland, and that’s where Kāti Māhaki, my hapū is, hardly any stories are left from down there.

Oh it was heaps cool, I loved it. It made it feel like there was a point to the story. We're not just going there to dance and have some fun, but we're actually telling a story – an important story. I thought it was great to be part of it.

Dian DuPers

I learned so much – I think every teacher that was involved with it learned so much.

Developing an inclusive curriculum. At Rotorua Lakes and Greymouth High Schools, student and whānau knowledge is validated through its introduction into the context for learning. (Extract from ‘Te Mana Kōrero: Strengthening Professional Practice’, 2005).

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